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Takeaways from Fuente's Memphis/Ole Miss media luncheon

It’s finally here. When Memphis’ 2015 football schedule was released in February, the Ole Miss game was the one virtually everyone had circled. The Tigers and Rebels fantastic starts to the season has only upped the ante as both are currently ranked in the top 25 of the Amway Coaches Poll (Memphis 22nd, Ole Miss 12th) ahead of their big clash at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Saturday on ABC. Here are a few takeaways from Memphis football coach Justin Fuente’s weekly media luncheon Monday.

-- There simply isn’t much to takeaway from Ole Miss’ 24-3 win against Memphis in Oxford last season. The Tigers are a completely different team than the one that went into Oxford last year. Paxton Lynch and the Memphis offense weren’t playing at the high-level we’re used to seeing them play at every week then, and the Tiger defense, which kept Memphis in the game for as long as it could last season, was far more experienced. 

“When you look at the film last year our defense played like the older unit,” Fuente said. “In comparison to our team, not Ole Miss. They held their own, until the bitter end. Offensively, we played like a young team. They struggled. Part of that is they are very, very good. Part of that was we were a bit bright-eyed I guess. Hopefully, we can kind of keep our wits about us and put together a good plan and give our kids the best chance to succeed (Saturday).”

-- Just as Memphis is a different team this season, so are the Rebels. Newcomer Chad Kelly, who to this point has played extremely well, apart from the Florida debacle two weeks ago, has replaced the departing Bo Wallace at quarterback. Ole Miss’ offense, which has a solid run game to go along with Kelly, hasn’t missed a beat as they’ve averaged more than 47 points per game, and are a top-ten offense nationally. One that will give Memphis’ rebuilding defense another tall task this week.

While the Rebels’ defense has been banged up, starting linebacker CJ Johnson and starting safety Tony Conner are both out due to injury, it will still probably be the best defense Memphis plays this season. Ole Miss' defense, who is led by star junior defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, is ranked 31st in the country in points allowed, giving up 19.7 points per game. 

--Yes, this game is different. ABC doesn’t come to the Liberty Bowl for Tiger home games often, if ever. Ole Miss being ranked 12th in the country doesn’t happen often. Memphis being ranked in the Coaches Poll back-to-back weeks was just a dream this time last season. Also, students were lining up as early as 7 a.m. for guest tickets, which had originally sold out by 8:30, which doesn't happen ofte

University of Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen said they had to expand the student section for this weekend’s game due to the demand. Reason number #9595943 showing that Tiger football has arrived.

In addition, Bowen said the game is a near sellout as of Monday afternoon. He also said they are opening the gates at 5 a.m. Saturday, and fans should plan to get there as early as possible.

“Come early,” Bowen said. “Really come early.”

Take it from a media member who missed the Cincinnati kick off due to traffic. Get there as early as you can Saturday. You won't regret it. 

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